More than 2 million people — a record number — visited the Auschwitz Memorial Museum in 2016. Located at the site of the former Nazi death camp outside the town of Oswiecim in southern Poland, the Memorial Museum will mark its 70th anniversary this year.
A report on the auschwitz.org web site said 2,053,000 visitors came in 2016. The top 10 countries of origin were Poland (424,000), the United Kingdom (271,000), the United States (215,000), Italy (146,000), Spain (115,000), Israel (97,000), Germany (92,000), France (82,000 ), Czech Republic (60,000) and Sweden (41,000).
The previous record was in 2015, when more than 1.7 people visited.
A big boost in the number of visitors was due to the Roman Catholic World Youth Day, which took place at the end of July in nearby Krakow and was attended by Pope Francis, who also visited Auschwitz, where he engaged in silent prayer. Special arrangements were made for participants to visit Auschwitz.
Over 155 thousand people visited the Memorial in the period of 12 days during which the authentic site was accessible only for WYD pilgrims. The highest attendance was recorded on July 26th, when the Memorial was visited by nearly 21 thousand pilgrims. Never before in one day has so many people visited the former camp premises.
The growing numbers of visitors to Auschwitz over the past few years have created logistics, security, preservation, and other challenges for administrators and have put strains on fragile infrastucture.
JHE Coordinator Ruth Ellen Gruber described some of the challenges in an article in 2015.
One of the museum’s key challenges is conserving the site’s deteriorating buildings, ruins, archival holdings and artifacts. The museum is a state-run entity. The Polish government provides more than one-third of the approximately $15 million annual budget, and the European Union also contributes some funding. But more than half of the budget is generated by the museum itself through visitor fees for guides, sales of publications, onsite business concessions and other income sources.
Quoted on the auschwitz.org web site, Dr. Piotr M. A. Cywiński, director of the Museum and Memorial, stressed that political and social trends today made visiting Auschwitz — and learning from the history before and during the Holocaust — more relevant than ever.
“In today’s world – torn by conflicts, increased feeling of insecurity and strengthening of populist tones in public discourse – it is necessary to re-listen to the darkest warnings from the past,” he said. “Not-so-distant past of which the painful effects are still felt by witnesses living among us, their families and the next generations. In an era of such rapid changes in culture and civilization, we must again recognize the limits beyond which the madness of organized hatred and blindness may again escape out of any control,” he added.
On-site educational programs; guided tours by professionally train guides; the internet and social media have become increasingly important, the statement said.
historical information, photographs, and descriptions of the most important events at the Memorial appear on the virtual space every day. Nearly 230 thousand persons use the Museum’s profile on Facebook; more than 30 thousands observe the Museum’s account on Twitter, and 22 thousand on Instagram. In 2016, over 43 million visits of the www.auschwitz.org website were recorded.